An American man who said he wanted to fly to the edge of outer space to see if the world is round has died after his home-built rocket blasted off into the desert sky before plunging back down to earth.
“Mad” Mike Hughes was killed on Saturday when his rocket crashed on private property near Barstow in California. Waldo Stakes, a colleague who was at the rocket launch, said Hughes, 64, had been killed.
The Science Channel said on Twitter it had been chronicling Hughes’ journey and that “thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time”.
“It was always his dream to do this launch,” the Twitter message said.
Hughes was also a limousine driver and held the Guinness World Record for “longest limousine ramp jump”, for jumping 31m in a Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine, at a speedway in 2002.
A video on TMZ.com shows the rocket taking off, with what appears to be a parachute tearing off during the launch. The steam-powered rocket streaks upwards, then takes around 10 seconds to fall straight back to earth. Shrieks can be heard as the rocket ploughs into the desert.
Freelance journalist Justin Chapman, who was at the scene, said the rocket appeared to rub against the launch apparatus, which might have caused the mishap with the parachute.
In March 2018, Hughes propelled himself about 570m into the air. He deployed one parachute and then a second one but still had a hard landing in the Mojave Desert in California, and injured his back.
“This thing wants to kill you 10 different ways,” Hughes said after that launch. “This thing will kill you in a heartbeat.”
Hughes said in a video that his goal was to eventually fly to the edge of outer space to determine for himself whether the world was round. “I don’t want to take anyone else’s word for it,” he said in the video, posted on the BBC News website. “I don’t know if the world is flat or round.”
In another video posted on his YouTube site, Hughes said he also wanted “to convince people they can do things that are extraordinary with their lives”.
“My story really is incredible,” Hughes once told The Associated Press. “It’s got a bunch of story lines — the garage-built thing. I’m an older guy. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, plus the Flat Earth. The problem is it brings out all the nuts also.”